With its no-frills approach to performance, the Dodge Viper had become an anachronism. The new one brings it into the 21st century with some classy touches.
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As an auto writer friend and I charged along winding roads in California in the the 2013 SRT Viper, we kept coming back to the same excited compliment:
"It feels like a real car!"
Well, you'd think that, with prices expected to start at about $100,000, it darned well ought to, but a large part of the appeal of the Viper has always been its brutal simplicity. When the Viper was first introduced in 1992, you could almost imagine that a high school shop teacher had found a V10 engine down at the junkyard and decided it would be a cool class project to build a car around it. It was all about the power.
Even the second generation Viper, which featured multiple improvements over the first, seemed barely reasonable to drive on public roads. Sure, there was a time when cars had to be difficult to drive in order to be fast, and this was a car that demanded the driver really drive. A simple cruise down the highway meant keeping both hands firmly on the steering wheel as every bump and ripple pulled the car its own way. Inside, the cockpit was loud, hot and punishingly cramped.
But that time is long gone, and the Viper has finally grown up and learned some manners.
Chrysler has created a car that's overall nicer, more comfortable and easier to drive but that retains just enough of its underlying irascible nature to be fend off any whiff of boredom. This isn't a watered-down Viper. It's just better. Much better.